Saturday, January 17, 2009
Get Your Wings
Baby it's cooold outside...where can we find relief from the bitter weather that's descended upon us... Aaahh! I know....
I re-noticed the Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory and Gardens on a recent route 5 trip. Kelly mentions wanting to go there pretty much every time we happen to pass by. Until lately I've managed to tuck the request under the rug with an obligatory glance at the building going by, an affirmative nod, and a mutter along the lines of "Yeah, we should check that out...some time...", as the conservatory shrunk away into the rear view mirror.
But a few nights ago, as numb frozen fingers struggled to clamp jumper cables to a dead car battery without electrocuting myself, in a howling frigid Mars-like gale; something tripped in my mind, and it suddenly dawned on me that butterflies need warm humid temperatures to survive. Yes. That's it. Saturday's outing was thus born. I printed out a couple of coupons from their website, rounded up the troops, and we made way to South Deerfield.
The Magic Wings conservatory is big. We visited a smaller one last winter on our vacation down south, and were pleasantly impressed with the peacefulness of a greenhouse full of colorful plants and even more colorful, lazily floating butterflies. We were hoping for a repeat performance here. But we found the parking lot pretty full when we got there, so we figured on the peacefulness part of the trip eluding us and settled for hopefully colorful visit...
It was in fact brimming with people and students. But there was plenty of room for everybody, and certainly plenty to look at. After getting our hands stamped at the ticket counter/gift shop we entered a room full of lizards, bugs, and baby quail.
The bugs and lizards were mostly exotic, and some were vibrantly colorful, like this South American tree frog...
Some were a little more muted, like our friends and future overlords, the roaches.
There are also displays and recordings discussing the differences between moths and butterflies, as well as other helpful tidbits and factoids. When your done in that room, you then walk through a pressurized entry-way, and you're suddenly bathed in in the balmy atmospheric of the conservatory...and a thousand miles from salty route 5.
Butterflies of all colors and sizes are immediately fluttering all about your face and body. If you're lucky, they'll land on you somewhere for a brief Ace Ventura moment. If your not aware of the passenger, then you're now the proud owner of an unsolicited hair accessory.
You can't summon the butterflies to land on your finger, as they are bugs after all.
They seem to pick their interactions with humans on their own terms, by all evidence based on innocence and good karma.
Chris got a visitor, Kelly soon had one, but I was left to my own devices until we were well into our visit. I guess I had to shed my darker thoughts and anxieties with a good cleansing session of the conservatory's peaceful vibe, before I was in the running for a visit.
All around the jungle-like conservatory are plastic champagne glasses on sticks, filled with colorful nectar soaked sponges to attract the butterflies for easy viewing and picture taking.
And picture taking there was. Photographers appeared to make up at least 20% of the visitors.
I figured something like that would be the case when I read on their website that flash photography is welcome; which was odd; I've seen places that allow non-flash photography, but I've never seen a place actually welcome flash use. I eventually found out why; To capture the fast fluttering wings of the butterflies, you need to use the bright light of the flash. Also, it helps brings out their incredible colors.
This necessity for flash is something that didn't fully sink in until I stubbornly took dozens of frustratingly blurry pictures.
As Kramer from Seinfeld would say, 'Mother Nature is a Maaaad Scientist..!' Look at the colors this finch sports:
While bright colors give some species of animals an advantage, lack of them are advantages to others. Witness this one, playing hide and seek:
See it? He's right there, in plain sight...
Don't worry, I didn't see it either. Kelly, (aka Sacajawea), had to point out the critter to me. While that one was camouflaged like a plant, others camouflage like animals:
I'd think twice before biting into something with eyes that big, too.
For a break from the air-borne, there's plenty of land-bound animalia to observe in the tropical climes of the conservatory.
And yes, earlier, I said Quail. For some reason, small, ridiculously cute Button Quail figure largely into the conservatory. We found that they let them roam freely among the butterflies and other birds.
They scurry across the pathways from underbush to underbrush, braving the strides of the giant humans.
Throughout our visit the conservatory remained pretty busy...
At about 4:30-ish it was getting dark, and the lights came on. Closing time was at 5, so we wrapped it up, and I hunted for a few more shots on the way out...
I was glad we came to check Magic Wings out. It was a nice, warm little break from the frigid January air...
...with some of nature's colors that are so scant at this time of year, in marvelous abundance...
...and of course mixed with the not-so-colorful, to balance things out...
...it's nice to have them under the same warm roof.